Diane Lefer walks city streets and rides buses dressed in an orange jumpsuit and black hood so that people won't forget the prisoners still being held in Guantanamo. She doesn't, however, do this as often as she used to ever since she was mistaken for a terrorist and had two guns held to her head.
Diane dropped out of college decades ago and ran away to Oaxaca, Mexico. Her life in Mexico informed much of the fiction in her first short-story collection, The Circles I Move In (Zoland Books, 1994) while her love and respect for Latin America (and Latin American literature) continues to inform her work as author, playwright, and activist. She has served as a bilingual interviewer for an AIDS prevention and education project in Harlem and the South Bronx and as a volunteer legal assistant and interpreter for immigrants held in detention centers in Los Angeles County. She collaborated with Colombian exile Hector Aristizábal on Nightwind, a play that has toured the world about his arrest and torture by the US-trained military, including for human rights organizations in Afghanistan and Colombia. Their nonfiction book, The Blessing Next to the Wound (Lantern Books, 2010) was named by Amnesty International as a book to read during Banned Books Week.
Her booklength fiction includes Nobody Wakes Up Pretty (Rainstorm Press, 2012), a New York City-noir crime novel; California Transit (Sarabande Books, 2007, awarded the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction); Radiant Hunger, a novel (Authors Choice, 2001); Very Much Like Desire (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2000.)
Besides teaching for 23 years in the MFA in Writing Program at Vermont College of Fine Arts, Diane has facilitated writing and theatre workshops for adjudicated youth and emotionally disturbed children in the foster-care system. She has offered arts-based workshops to boost literary and promote social justice in Barrancabermeja, Colombia and Cochabamba, Bolivia as well as in the US.
She's also worked on an apple-pie-filling assembly line, picked potatoes (inspiration for her play Harvest), typed autopsy reports, and spent years as a temp. When author François Camoin accused her of having an unwholesome relationship with her cat, she was inspired to write the musical, American Buggery, produced by Trustus Theatre, Columbia, SC and based on court records from colonial New England about men hanged for bestiality. (She was subsequently the object of amorous advances by a drill baboon at the LA Zoo but as a proper behavioral observer she had been trained not to interact.)
Social justice issues make their way into her fiction, but also in her advocacy journalism for CounterPunch, LA Progressive, New Clear Vision, Presente!, and Truthout.